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Housebuilders fear damage of ongoing political vacuum

Uncertainty about future policy is causing concern

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CIF director general Tom Parlon. Photo: Tony Gavin

CIF director general Tom Parlon. Photo: Tony Gavin

CIF director general Tom Parlon. Photo: Tony Gavin

Concern is growing in the housebuilding sector that a long delay in forming a government will have a serious impact on housing supply, according to key industry figures.

The crisis in the sector requires an all-party agreement on policy similar to one in place to deal with health, they told the Sunday Independent.

Uncertainty around the make up of the next government is already causing problems for builders, according to Wexford-based Anthony Neville who operates across the Leinster region.

"I am selling a development of three-bed homes in Enniscorthy for €210,000 each and purchasers are not showing up," he said. "That is because my potential customers are on the Wexford housing list and cannot get mortgage approval."

Neville, a former chairman of the Irish Housebuilders Association (IHBA) but who was speaking in a private capacity, said that a local authority had turned down planning permission for another of his developments saying it was too dense.

"I appealed that decision to An Bord Pleanála and they've just come back and turned it down on the basis that it is not dense enough. There is no minister there now to drive policy so nothing will happen and the industry is in total limbo."

Construction Industry Federation (CIF) director general Tom Parlon expressed similar concerns when contacted by this newspaper: "There's a lot of concern around uncertainty across the construction and property industries," he said. "You can measure risk, but you can't measure uncertainty, particularly the sort of political uncertainty we're going to face over the coming month."

Prolonged uncertainty would have "a significant impact on the investment pipeline that can only stymie the delivery of housing and apartments," said Parlon.

"We're calling on the parties to accelerate discussions and come to some arrangement as quickly as possible. Whatever the composition of the next Government, we believe that the housing crisis necessitates a cross-party agreement backed up by emergency legislation similar to the approach adopted for Sláintecare."

Parlon continued: "I'm afraid that housing will probably be the rock that the next Government crashes on also. I do not see enough coordination and collaboration between the industry and the myriad bodies of the state and local government that's required to deliver a quantum shift in housing output," he said.

The CIF boss said the government had contributed to the problems in the sector because it adds to the cost of construction. "When finance is limited, our banks are restricted from lending to homebuilders, such a high tax take means builders can't secure finance, hence they can't build," said Parlon. "The result is that its unaffordable to build affordable homes so young couples move home, go on the social housing list or face paying exorbitant amounts in Ireland's 'rental purgatory'."

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